Friday the 13th was not kind to Bradley soccer, as the team’s 17 game non-conference unbeaten streak was snapped after a 1-0 loss to Eastern Illinois. The weekend proved to be a forgettable one for the Braves, as they are now on a two game losing streak, bringing their record to 1-2-2 on the season.
The Panthers’ last win against the Braves dates back to 2009. That season the Braves were on an eight game unbeaten run with an impressive 7-0-1 record.
This year, Bradley dominated the game from top to bottom but couldn’t find the back of the net. The Braves had a total of 12 corner kicks to the Panthers’ two. They had 19 shots to the Panthers’ six, but only six were on target. Eastern Illinois only needed two shots on goal to send a ball at the back of the net.
The lack of finishing came back to bite the Braves when Eastern Illinois’ forward, Munir Sherali, took advantage of a ball mishandled by Bradley’s goalkeeper, Nick Gasperi, to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead in the 68th minute. They were able to hold the lead and get a narrow win despite being outplayed.
“That’s just soccer, you outshoot somebody, but the ball doesn’t go in, but we have to control those things better,” head coach Jim DeRose said. “I always say this to the guys: every analytic or metric goes your way, but there’s only one that matters, and that’s the goals you score.”
On Sunday afternoon, Bradley played Northern Illinois in DeKalb for its first road game of the 2019 season.
The Huskies outplayed the Braves from the early stages of the game. Jan Maertins and Nick Markanich scored two goals within two minutes of each other at the 31st and 33rd minutes. Northern Illinois led the game with 18 shots to Bradley’s six and allowed only one shot on goal from the Bradley offense.
DeRose said the lack of offensive urgency also was a problem for the team Sunday.
“We just missed a couple of chances early in the game, and we just got punished for it,” DeRose said.
The Huskies frustrated the Braves with a high and relentless press, which forced Bradley to clear the ball away on multiple occasions.
In the 62nd minute of the game, senior defender David Schulte Südhoff gave the Braves some hope with a great volley from the top of the box, but the team was unable to tie the game and conceded their second straight defeat.
Schulte Südhoff was happy to have scored his first career goal, but that didn’t diminish his disappointment following their second loss.
“The goalkeeper nearly got his hands on the ball, so it was close,” Schulte Südhoff said. “I was happy, but in the end it wasn’t enough because we lost anyways.”
He echoed a similar sentiment as his coach concerning the team’s goal scoring woes.
“We play very well until the final third, but sometimes it’s bad services, sometimes it’s a bad pass,” Schulte Südhoff said. “In the final third, we have to improve our performances, we have to score goals.”
DeRose said he believes his team has done a serviceable job at getting the ball in dangerous goal-scoring areas over the past two games but have failed at making the last determining choice.
“In the final third, we just lacked that composure,” DeRose said. “The ability to make the last pass, the last shot or the last dribble.”
The Braves will now turn towards what is expected to be a tough conference season.
“I think it’s fair to say that everybody that we will play in our conference will be the best team that we played to date so far,” DeRose said. “If we feel sorry for ourselves too long, it’s going to turn into three or four losses.”
The Braves will now try to forget the rough weekend and focus on improving in their first conference games at 6 p.m. Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa against Drake and 7 p.m. Wednesday in Chicago to face Loyola.